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Watch Your Mouth, Buster!

Watch Your Mouth, Buster!

Mike Lenhart

There are so many things that go on in graphic design and in the act of designing itself. We’re called on to perform many tasks simultaneously and we learn to get quite adept at them, or we perish. We juggle many projects, and CS3 programs, in the course of a day and can pat ourselves on the back for those skills alone. But, what about talking to people? How do we talk to our colleagues, and, Heaven forbid, our clients, in a manner that doesn’t come off Neanderthal or downright idiotic? Here are my thoughts.

Think Before You Open Your Mouth

I’ve learned (and still have to practice) to pause a second or two before opening my mouth and speaking to someone else. My thoughts are usually pretty random, and most times negative, and it’s not fair for me to spew that stuff on the unsuspecting. So, if I pause and think about what I want to communicate and how it should come across, things usually end up pretty well. While the other person(s) may not be so good at the pause-before-speaking tactic, I can leave the conversation knowing that I did my best and didn’t leave any destruction in my wake.

Get The Facts First

How many times have we spoken up or approached someone without really knowing all the facts first? Nothing is more embarrassing than having a one-sided conversation with someone when everything you’re saying is incorrect. Do some preliminary fact-finding. Get updated on what is actually happening and where things are, right now, before confronting someone with old, or just plain wrong, news.

Practice, Practice, Practice

I know, the practice principle sounds pretty lame, and it is, but, the more we get into the practice of actually talking to people and articulating our thoughts, the better we’ll get at it. After a little while, our knowledge about graphic design history and how it applies to the effectiveness of that layout your client hates, will roll off the tongue. You’ll wow the office and be the talk of the water cooler. Maybe not, but at least we’ll sound slightly more intelligent and won’t be throwing our emotions into what is meant to be professional, adult conversations.

As artists, the professional stuff that we need to swallow if only to get by isn’t pleasant, or fun, at times. But, we need to do it. It may not be in our DNA, but we can get it programmed in us. If you give presentations to colleagues or clients on a regular basis, you’ll get into the practice very quickly. If not, you can try an organization like Toastmasters, where their whole purpose is to get up in front of people and speak – coherently. It’s not always pretty, but it’s worth it. Effective communication with people from all walks of life is really important and can come in handy. Done correctly, you’ll come off as a star and your success will mount. So, get off your ass and do it already – idiot!

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